KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Study Finds Tax-Exempt Hospitals Spend Little On ‘Community Benefit’

New research also offers insights regarding the value of patient satisfaction as a quality indicator and the impact that context has on improving care.

Medpage Today: Hospitals Spend Little On Health Of Community
Tax-exempt hospitals spend only a very small fraction of their operating expenses on improving community health, researchers found. In 2009, of the mean 7.5 percent of operating expenses set aside for community benefits by tax-exempt hospitals, an average of 5 percent of that very small slice was used to improve health in the community, according to Gary Young, PhD, of Northeastern University in Boston, and colleagues. The majority of fiscal community benefit resources -- 85 percent -- were used for charity care and other care-related services, while the remaining 10 percent was used for education, research, and community group contributions, they wrote in the April 18 New England Journal of Medicine (Petrochko, 4/17).

Los Angeles Times: Study Questions 'Community Benefits' Paid By Tax-Exempt Hospitals
Private, tax-exempt hospitals spent an average of 7.5 percent of their operating expenses on community benefits in 2009, according to a new study that raises questions about whether the amount is enough. Overall, the study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine showed hospitals "varied widely" in the level of "community benefits" they provided, ranging from 20 percent of the operating budget at some to 1 percent at others. They concluded that most of the expenditures benefited patient care while "little was spent on community health improvement" (Bloomekatz, 4/17).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Study: Patient Satisfaction May Not Be Good Quality Indicator
You may have found your doctor to be a great communicator, your hospital room clean and quiet and your pain well controlled. Yet a study finds these opinions are not barometers of whether your hospital's surgical care is any good (Rau, 4/17).

Medpage Today: Care Improves When Docs Consider Context
Patients benefit when clinicians included "context" -- life circumstances and needs -- in decision-making and formulating care plans, an observational study found. Just over 70 percent of patient-physician encounters that produced a "contextualized" plan for care led to a positive outcome, compared with 46 percent of visits that disregarded patient life factors, according to Saul J. Weiner, MD, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, and colleagues. After controlling for variables such as clinician gender, patients with contextualized care plans -- also called patient-centered decision making -- were almost four times as likely to show improvements, the researchers reported in the April 16 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (Walsh, 4/17).

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